Are Idiots Born or Created?
Seen from abroad over the past half century, one gets the impression that the United States has embraced a vibrant new tradition. Along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness they are pursuing stupidity. And they are doing a sensational job of it. A few decades ago this would have sounded like a gratuitous insult, but today it is widely acknowledged as a simple fact of life. Are you reluctant to believe it? Try googling “American stupidity” and you will find think piece after think piece, authored by Americans themselves, dissecting the many facets of widespread US mental deficiencies. They have titles like, “Have We Reached Peak Stupidity,” “Are Americans Just Stupid” and “Americans Just Want to Be Free to be Stupid.”
Isn’t Stupidity Universal?
Is this to suggest that stupidity doesn’t exist in other places? No, of course not, but not to the degree that it thrives in the United States where, due to a unique combination of factors, stupidity rules almost every manifestation of American society: what they value, what they admire, what they aspire to, what they demand, what they vote for, even what they eat. And certainly what they watch, listen to and follow. Nowhere else does the stupidity factor hold such sway. What is the great American stupidity enabler?
Like everything else, it’s the profit motive, and we’ll discuss that later. For now, suffice it to say that in a country whose cherished traditional values include rugged individualism, false exceptionalism, fast money, relentless militarism and distrust of collective solutions. Americans think these solutions smell of socialism and consider them wholly incompatible with their fictional “free world.” I thought Neil Young had razed that place back in 1989, with his song, Rockin’ in the Free World. (“People sleepin’ in their shoes… Keep on rockin’ in the free world.”)
The American Gold Rush Mentality
When grave mental deficiencies are detected in great swaths of the population, the American tendency is not to regard them as people to be helped, rather as opportunities to be exploited. It’s the American gold-rush mentality: “Thar’s gold in them thar hills!” How do they mine those unfortunate souls? Let me count the ways. They put them in private, for-profit prisons where they are obliged to work for an average of 63 cents and hour–and in some states for free. Only 8% of state and federal prisoners are held in private prisons. But 73% of immigration detainees are incarcerated for profit. By cost cutting on everything–installations, staff, staff training, education programs–the private operations manage to undercut the manifestly better state and federal facilities in order to make a profit. (Source: Statista.com)
They lure them into life/death lottery which is the armed forces Even when they’re not in the army or behind bars, members of the American working class are under represented by unions, underpaid and over exploited. A significant part of them does not earn enough money to live a decent life and raise their children in conditions of health and wellbeing. And we’re talking about the richest country in the world. Could someone explain to me how that is possible?
One thing is certain: the United States is the outland in outlandish. And they will, sooner or later, pay the price, not just for inequality and racism but for all the exceptional rest, the mass gun killings and the solitary suicides, the tolerated far-right militias, the discouraged teachers and parents, the holy men who travel in private airliners, the congress people on the payrolls of banks, arms manufacturers and big pharma, the honest business people with accumulation psychosis, the black and brown kids who don’t have a chance…
Societal Failure or Business Opportunity
The authorities don’t consider possibilities for more, better, free schooling for people who have been left behind, or equality programs to raise levels across the whole society, but private prisons and reality TV. It’s not by accident that America’s worst-ever president was a reality TV star. Mediocrity seeks its own level. For every Lincoln or Roosevelt that Americans have enjoyed as their president, they were obliged to suffer dozens of Harry Trumans (who was the only US president not to graduate from college), Ronald Reagans and George W. Bushes.
There is a gleam of hope, however. The most thoughtful commentators on the subject agree that Americans are not born stupider that the rest of humanity. They’re essentially normal as their intelligence quotients compare positively with those of other countries and conform to the familiar bell curve. But wait just a few years and you’ll find that outlandish, senseless, anti-social and counterproductive notions have crept into their heads, such as the Pledge of Allegience to the Flag. I was nurtured on that nonsense through most of grade school and I clearly recall not having any idea what it was about.
I now know now that it was about the insidious brainwashing of innocent children, and most of those brains cannot be restored. It turns out to be the first brick in the wall of American hypernationalism, a baseless concept like the Holy Trinity, that has become God’s absolute truth in America. Once that superstructure was erected, they could hang anything on it, starting with American exceptionalism, the notion that, just by being born Americans they were unique among the citizens of the world, endowed with unique privileges, all of which is, of course, the rankest hogwash. Americans are in no way unique, superior or more entitled that any other race on earth. That notion springs from the same putrid source as white supremacy. It is just a false justification (though many–most?– Americans seem to believe it) for their rampant imperialism around the world.
Mental Damage to Children
Concomitant with these outrages is the irreparable mental damage done to the minds of American young people, which have been precooked by the lies of school and church, Captain America and the American flags flapping outside their front doors. Their exceptionalist beliefs lead them to support the insane and unending litany of bullying, rapine, regime change and exploitation that their country practices for profit around the world.
To mislead and confuse its youth with uber-patriotic nonsense is to condemn a country to a dark future, the one that we are seeing playing out today in the U.S. It was not only other people’s territory and natural resources that interested America’s early international entrepreneurs and still does. It was access to markets in places like Japan and China, access achieved by “gunboat diplomacy.” Today is an interesting time to recall those snippets of history, with China gutting the American industrial base and devouring their markets without having to deploy any gunboats.
There are endless theories to explain the dumbing of America. Ron Jud, writing in the Seattle Times blames it on television, especially in its cheapest, nastiest–and most profitable–form, reality shows. He affirms:
American television has made the country what it is today–fat, lazy, uninterested, selfish, intellectually comatose and uninspired. It was around the mid-’90s… when the sinking feeling began… reality TV, shows that required little cast, sets or the inkling of creative spark God gave a common garden snail. Manna, in other words for the geniucrats running the U.S. entertainment industry.Seattle Times, 28 August 2021
Another theory traces American stupidity back to the frontier spirit. It’s not actually stupidity. Steven Nadler calls it “a kind of intellectual stubbornness.” Here’s his take on the phenomenon in Time:
The problem is not that the people who don’t believe in climate change or who choose not to vaccinate their children, or who deny evolution by natural selection are necessarily uninformed (although many of them are, and a good deal of what passes for “information” these days comes from highly suspect sources). Rather, it is that in the face of relevant information they have refused to adjust or abandon their beliefs accordingly. We are witnessing a struggle between the dark and light tendencies of the American national psyche. The mask is its symbol.Time
So it’s not stupidity. But it will do till the real thing comes along.